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“Solidarity is not a word you say at the end of a one-sided conversation”

April 6, 2015

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The Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student’s Association has been on a weeklong renewable strike against austerity since April 1st. Members of the WSSA voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike motion brought to our Winter General Assembly — with 78% of those in attendance voting to strike.  Since April 1st we have been actively organizing in a variety of ways against the austerity measures of the Quebec government and in accordance with our strike mandate.

On April 2nd, members of our strike committee, along with other students, attended a meeting with the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies during which we expected to discuss how we could continue to support each other during the coming days of striking. Instead of a dialogue that logically followed from our previous conversations with the IGSF, in which they had expressed general support for our mobilization, we were met with extreme and unexpected condemnations of our organizing, our strategies, our tactics, our politics generally, and our commitment to feminist values. We were told that pickets are violent, that we made the WSSA General Assembly a site of intimidation and bullying, and that our mobilization has no impact because it is poorly thought out.

We were told, repeatedly, that our strike mandate and our strategy of targeting austerity by striking was divisive and thus anti-feminist. It is surprising and disappointing not only that our actions have been deemed ‘anti-feminist’, but that our professors who study the nuances and ambiguities of power would suggest such a binary of ‘feminist’/’anti-feminist.’  It is also disappointing that the IGSF has chosen to withdraw their support in such a pronounced way, since the relationship between the IGSF and the GSDFSSA (Gender, Sexual Diversity and Feminist Studies Students’ Association) Strike Committee in 2012 was characterized by mutual support and respect.

We understand that the IGSF, as a small, underfunded, and undervalued institute at McGill, is under pressure from the McGill Administration and the Quebec government more generally to end our strike. We understand that the IGSF is receiving threats that their professors, precarious workers like those we seek to support through our strike, and like many of us, could lose their jobs or not be paid if they attempt to accommodate or support striking students.

What we do not understand is why they have chosen to accept these conditions wholesale and have proceeded to repress our resistance to these same forces instead of working with us to challenge those above them in the university hierarchy, as we are putting ourselves at risk to do. We do not understand why, if the IGSF is against our strike, they must couch this in accusations of divisiveness, bullying, and anti-feminism instead of honestly engaging with the pressures we are all facing.

Women’s Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies students, as with any other student body, have never been united. We have always held various political views, and we have never held the same levels of power as each other or our professors. We are confident that the strike is a time during which we can continue to have a dialogue about these differences and work through them as we have in the classroom for years. Moreover, we reaffirm that our strike is based on feminist principles, that austerity is rooted in patriarchy, and that as Women’s Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies students we have a particularly unique responsibility and role to play in this strike.

We ask the IGSF to reconsider their claims that our resistance is simply theoretical and that it is so internal to our department that nobody is noticing our actions.

Just hours after leaving the meeting in which our tactics to date had been heavily and unsolicitedly criticized, members of the WSSA marched in the streets of Montreal with 75 000+ other students, workers, faculty, and social groups. Many people approached us throughout to inquire about strikes at McGill and discuss our mobilization. Some of us were met with intense police violence in the forms of direct physical intimidation and tear gas, countless canisters of which were launched into the crowd by the SPVM (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal; the Montreal police force) with no warning, in an attempt to disperse the demonstration.

We ask that those faculty members who have indicated they will call security on us if we picket, reconsider their commitment to resistance against state violence, and critically self-reflect on the violence they would be inviting us to be subject to should they do this. Despite assurances of solidarity with those striking, the IGSF has utilized methods that hardly demonstrate any sense of care or community.

The WSSA Strike Committee is dedicated – and, just as importantly, mandated by the WSSA membership – to continuing to mobilize against austerity, including by ensuring that the strike is enforced and undergraduates in WMST classes do not attend class. We ask that the IGSF respect our decision-making process, our ongoing learning, and our collective strength as we carry out these tasks.

Solidarity is not a word you say at the end of a one-sided conversation during which you have threatened to fail us and call security on us.  Solidarity is the actions that support the strikers and our strike. We were shown solidarity by the workers at the community centre who welcomed us on April 2nd with words of encouragement, cookies, and water, who helped us escape from approaching police and enabled us to rinse tear gas from our eyes. Solidarity is the relationships we’re building with one another, and the reciprocal enactment of care and support.

With this in mind, we ask that the IGSF consider the following requests in their future interactions with the WSSA and the Strike Committee:

  • That IGSF and WMST professors direct all future communication that pertains specifically to strike matters to the Strike Committee as a body, rather than to individual members of the Strike Committee;

  • That rather than claiming solidarity and allyship while behaving with hostility towards the Strike Committee and individual dissenting students, the IGSF should cease their use of the language of support and solidarity in relation to the strike until they have at the very minimum communicated with the WSSA in good faith about our needs regarding the strike, and have sincerely engaged with those mandated to facilitate the strike to determine a plan of action in which we can support IGSF staff and professors and accept sincere and practical support from them.  Solidarity is defined by those with whom you are acting in solidarity;

  • That any future meetings held with the WSSA and/or the Strike Committee regarding the strike should have clearly communicated goals, transparency regarding who will be attending, and prior notice to allow us to adequately prepare.

Forever in solidarity with striking students, precarious workers, and all those resisting austerity,

McGill WSSA Strike Mobilization Committee 2015

Supporting Signatories:

Comité Femmes de l’ASSÉ
AGSEM (Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill)

Read More | To the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) from The Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student’s Association (WSSA) 2015 Strike Committee

 

“THERE IS STILL A PLACE WHERE BLACK UNICORNS RUN FREELY”

March 30, 2015

Juliana Huxtable spins.

CUT OFF FROM THE ‘REAL’ BY AN ATMOSPHERIC BUBBLE OF COINTELPRO PROPAGANDA AN PAMPHLETS CREATED BY THE HOOVER ADMINISTRATION, IT’S A LAND WHERE REPARATIONS ARE TAKEN AS THEY ARE LIVED. ITS MUSES AND MEDIUMS AMONG US ARE ‘URBAN’ WOMEN IN SPORTS BRAS, BOXER SHORTS, AND LOW SLUNG CAMO PANTS IN MILITARY AND ATHLETIC SHOEWEAR. THE SPIRITUAL RESIDUE OF ‘CAPITALISM PLUS DOPE EQUALS GENOCIDE’ AND THE PROTECTIVE OPTIMISM OF FREE BREAKFAST FOR THE CHILDREN SWINGS IN HOOP EARRINGS SO LARGE THEY TRACE COLLARBONES WHEN JAWS DROP TO DISCLOSE LYRICALLY THAT THERE IS STILL A PLACE WHERE BLACK UNICORNS RUN FREELY.

Read More | “Untitled (Casual Power)” | Juliana Huxtable | From UNIVERSAL CROP TOPS FOR ALL THE SELF CANONIZED SAINTS OF BECOMING (2015), on display at the New Museum Triennial

 

“…that subaltern who was supposed to fail but didn’t.”

March 4, 2015

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JENNY ZHANG: You know a while ago, the writer, cultural critic, and editor of The New Inquiry, Ayesha Siddiqi tweeted “why are my tweets better than your thinkpiece? bc you grew up entitled to being a ‘writer’ and I grew up being resented by white teachers” and then went on this brilliant sequence of tweets where she basically lays out what it feels like to be denied and erased and dismissed and ridiculed and disbelieved at every step of the way by the educational system when you are considered an alien in the western, industrialized world, when you are that subaltern who was supposed to fail but didn’t.

There was something so fucking powerful about Ayesha’s insistence on using a form and a forum like Twitter instead of writing that Important Thinkpiece in that Important Publication and insisting that she can do better in 140 characters than what most people can do in a “proper” thinkpiece published in an established place with institutional backing. And then Ayesha ended up tweeting a series of shout-outs to people of color who gave themselves permission, who didn’t wait to be asked before they spoke, before they created something, or before they gave themselves the same amount of room to make mistakes and stumble that is often afforded to those who are considered native, who are considered educated, who are considered experts, who were born permitted.

It was exhilarating to be witness to that tweeting tear from Ayesha, and for me, Bhanu’s work does much the same, although in a different tone and in a different landscape, both offline and online. She gives herself permission to totally and completely fuck it, and by doing so, she gives me permission, to totally and completely fuck it. We’re not writing The Important Book, we are throwing it in the garden, and the tatters are what end up mattering more.

Sofia Samatar: That’s such a perfect example, Jenny, because of how Bhanu’s work speaks across distance. I mean, it speaks directly to us, like Ayesha’s tweets. I’m thinking too of the people she credits, constantly, her thank-yous, her shout-outs. Making community visible seems central to her work (nowhere more so than in Ban but that’s jumping ahead!).

Read More | “Reading Bhanu Kapil”| Amina Cain, Douglas A. Martin, Sofia Samatar, Kate Zambreno, Jenny Zhang | Believer Mag

 

“Earth is the language planet”

February 18, 2015

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I’m sometimes really surprised that people want to read my work as activist. I make artworks, objects, in an approximately conventional way, even if they are mostly videos. I’m always trying to drag big geopolitical or historical narratives into the realm of direct individual experience, and I even go so far as to find that kind of funny, that weird combination of scales: funny and also a bit painful. For example, The Neck puts together my bad childhood drawings where I didn’t understand how to draw a neck between the head and the body, and my dad’s black radical politics that he had at one time, some of which was great but sometimes we would go to political meetings and be told, “The man is the head of the household and the woman is the neck.” Jaki Liebezeit During A Power Cut Circa 1970 fuses the economic changes in the organization of capital that happened in the 1970s and a child listening to her parents’ records. The child is partly me and partly someone else—I wasn’t born yet in the 1970s, but someone I was in love with at the time was. I don’t see how any official politics can be any more important than the intensity of listening to music. Maybe, more than anything else, the videos are about rhythm. I fantasize that one day I will just make music.

What I’m saying is, my work is a kind of refusal of politics, as much as an affirmation of politics. But I want to take those things seriously. I’m not sneering at any of it. I ended up reading the neck as the idea of mediation, the impossibility of mediations between the image and the self, between a racial identity and the self, partly because maybe we don’t even know what’s really there, in the place of the self. I don’t think this follows the logic of activism at all. Those kinds of links are so insubstantial, they are almost arbitrary, something to do with memory, maybe, and I think they can only really happen in art or in a joke.

An artwork might change something I guess because of how it is received or how people carry the memory of it. When we’re talking about art changing anything, we’re talking about art changing a person, and what that person might do in response to this encounter with a work. There are definitely artworks that have changed me and not all of them were even works that I particularly liked.

Read More | “Artist Profile: Hannah Black”| Jesse Darling | Rhizome

 

“thank God for the asshole that Kanye has become”

February 16, 2015

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I began to imagine the faces of those everyday white supremacists, so complacent and comfortable in their racial tyranny over the South, if they could have seen Kanye preparing to take the stage at the Grammys. Specifically, I imagined the faces of the editorial team of the Memphis Evening Scimitar. On June 4 1892, they wrote that:

“The chief cause of trouble between the races in the South is the Negro’s lack of manners. In the state of slavery he learned politeness from association with white people, who took pain to teach him. Since the emancipation came and the tie of mutual interest and regard between master and servant was broken, the Negro has drifted away into a state which is neither freedom nor bondage…he has taken up the idea that boorish insolence is independence, and the exercise of a decent degree of breeding toward white people is identical with servile submission….there are many Negroes who use every opportunity to make themselves offensive, particularly when they think it can be done with impunity.” (My italics.)

As I read this I thought of Kanye mounting those steps, I thought of these racists watching him, and as I sat at my kitchen table I allowed myself a quietly maniacal chuckle.  After all, if these editors could have created an algorithm that would have produced their worst nightmare, then it is pretty safe to say that it would have produced someone like Kanye West. (In fact, in the quoted paragraph above, they virtually prophesied his emergence.) Kanye does not even have the good grace to be humble about his talents. He lacks manners; he is frequently impolite; he is rude, boorish, offensive, intemperate, obstreperous and vulgar. And, as I read these words from 1892, I absolutely loved him for it.  Kanye is critically acclaimed, he is independently wealthy, he has the ear of millions whenever he opens that mouth of his, that awful goddamn mouth – in short, he is everything that the slavers feared the day they reluctantly unlocked that final yoke.

Read More | “God Bless Kanye West, and God Bless Ida B. Wells” | Musa Okwonga | Okwonga.com